Leon Trotsky’s Writings On

Chapter IX

The Anglo-Russian Committee and Comintern policy

1. The plenum states that for the whole direction of our work in the British labour movement, especially for the correct understanding and carrying out of the tactic of the united front, the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee at the present moment has a decisive significance. Without a clear principled attitude to this question, the Comintern and above all the British Communist Party will be condemned to ever newer mistakes and vacillations. In the struggle against the war danger, the resolution of the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee is the basic prerequisite for resolving all other questions, just as (by way of example) in the year 1914, no step forward could be made without first resolving the question whether Social-Democratic deputies could vote for the war budget.

2. In the British trade union movement, just as in the Labour Party, the leading role is played by reformists of different varieties, the majority of whom are liberal Labour politicians. In view of the profound leftward development of the working masses, it must be acknowledged that the most dangerous variety of the liberal Labour politicians are politicians of the type of Purcell, Hicks, Brailsford and Co. The tottering structure of British imperialism is being supported at present not so much on Thomas and MacDonald as on Purcell, Brailsford and the like, without whom politicians such as Thomas and MacDonald, despite the fact that they are supported by the bourgeoisie, would no longer be able to maintain their leading position in the workers’ movement. The irreconcilable and relentless struggle against the left lackeys of imperialism, both in the trade unions and in the Labour Party, is becoming especially urgent now, when the sharpening international and domestic situation will strike mercilessly at every indecision and hypocrisy.

3. The trade unions and the party have without doubt their special characteristics, their special methods of work, in particular their special methods of carrying out the united front. But it is precisely on the question of the political bloc with the reformist leaders that the distinction between the trade unions and the party is completely effaced. In all important and critical cases, the General Council proceeds hand in hand with the Executive Committee of the Labour Party and the parliamentary fraction. In calling off the great strike, the leading politicians and trade unionists went hand in hand. In such conditions, not a single honest worker will understand why Purcell is said to be politically a left lackey of the bourgeoisie, while on the other hand with respect to the trade unions we stand in ‘cordial relations,’ ‘mutual understanding’ and ‘unanimity’ with him.

4. In particular cases, the tactic of the united front can lead to temporary agreements with this or that left group of reformists against the right wing. But such agreements must not in any circumstance be transformed into a lasting political bloc. Whatever concessions of principle we make for the purpose of artificially preserving such a political bloc must be recognized to be contrary to the basic aim of the united front and to be extremely harmful for the revolutionary development of the proletariat. During the last year the Anglo-Russian Committee has become just such an extremely harmful, thoroughly conservative factor.

5. The creation of the Anglo-Russian Committee was at a certain juncture an absolutely correct step. Under the leftward development of the working masses, the liberal Labour politicians, just like the bourgeois liberals at the start of a revolutionary movement, made a step to the left in order to maintain their influence among the masses. To reach out to them at that time was absolutely correct. However, it had to be clearly kept in mind that, just like all liberals, the British reformists would inevitably make a leap backwards to the side of opportunism, as the mass movement openly assumed revolutionary forms. This is just what happened at the moment of the General Strike. From the time of this gigantic event, the temporary agreement with the leaders had to be broken. and the break with the compromising of the ‘left’ leaders used to advantage among the broad proletarian masses. The attempt to cling to the bloc with the General Council after the open betrayal of the General Strike, and even after the betrayal of the miners’ strike, was one of the greatest mistakes in the history of the workers’ movement. The Berlin capitulation is a black mark in the history of the Comintern and represents the inevitable consequence of this false line.

6. One must be blind or a hypocrite to see the ‘main defect’ of the Berlin decisions in the fact that they narrowed the competence of the Anglo-Russian Committee instead of broadening it. The ‘competence’ of the Anglo-Russian Committee during the last year consisted of this: that the AR-Union Central Council of Trade Unions [AUCCTU] was trying to support the General Strike, while the General Council was breaking it. The AUCCTU was helping the miners’ strike on a broad scale, while the General Council was betraying it. If one talks about the broadening of the activity of the Anglo-Russian Committee (cf. no. 29 of the Resolution of the Commission), one is hypocritically pretending that this activity served some real interest of the workers, while in reality the Anglo-Russian Committee merely shielded and covered over the base and treacherous work of the General Council. To broaden this ‘activity’ contradicts the basic interests of the working class. Ridiculous and disgraceful is the attempt to get free from the Berlin decisions simply by appealing to the fact that the General Council bears responsibility for them (cf. again no. 29 of the draft Resolution). That strike-breakers who descend lower and lower, seek to protect their strike-breaking work from outside intervention; that strike-breakers take pains to cover over their strike-breaking with the capitulation of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions; all that is quite in the order of things. But all that does not justify our capitulation one iota.

7. The plenum indignantly rejects the vulgar, philistine, thoroughly Menshevik argument that Chamberlain ‘also’ wants the break-up of the Anglo-Russian Committee. The very attempt to determine our revolutionary line according to the arbitrary guidance of the enigma of what at every given moment Chamberlain wants or doesn’t want is nonsensical. His task consists in getting the left lackeys, as far as possible, into his hands. For this purpose he squeezes them, unmasks them, blackmails them, and demands they break with the Bolsheviks. Under the influence of this pressure and this blackmail, the General Council blackmails the All-Union Council of Trade Unions and, for its part, threatens it with a split. Under the pressure of the General Council, the AUCCTU agrees to capitulate. In, this devious way Chamberlain’s task has been completed, for his blackmail has led to the capitulation of the AUCCTU.

8. If we were to break with the General Council in order to discontinue all intervention in the affairs of the British working class; if, after the break, we were to confine ourselves to our internal affairs, while the British Communist Party was not developing with redoubled energy its campaign against the General Council; then Chamberlain would have every cause to be satisfied with this state of affairs. But the break-up of the Anglo-Russian Committee ought to mean the very opposite. Since we flatly reject the Berlin principle of non-interference as the principle of chauvinism and not of internationalism, we must support with redoubled energy the British Communist Party and the Minority Movement[1] in their redoubled struggle against the left lackeys of Chamberlain. In the presence of such a policy, Chamberlain will very soon be convinced that the revolutionary wing of the movement grew stronger after it shed the reactionary connection with the General Council.

9. The plenum therefore considers it absolutely necessary to break up in the shortest space of time the political bloc, which carries a disastrous ambiguity into our whole policy towards British reformism. The plenum is of the opinion that the British Communist Party must at once openly pose the question of the mutual relationship between the AUCCTU and the General Council. The British Communist Party, as well as the left-wing trade union Minority Movement, must demand the immediate summoning of the Anglo-Russian Committee in order to develop, in the name of the AUCCTU, a clear revolutionary programme of struggle against war and the offensive of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. The programme must be so formulated that it provides no scope to the charlatan trickery of Baldwin’s pacifist party. Refusal of the General Council to summon the Anglo-Russian Committee, or refusal of its delegation to accept the programme of struggle, is to lead to immediate breaking up of the bloc from our side and to a broad campaign against the reformists, especially the left variety who, better and on a wider scale than all the rest at the present moment, are helping the British Conservatives drag the British working class into war, without themselves being aware of it.

10. While giving all-round support to the movement of the truly revolutionary minority and particularly while giving support to acceptable candidacies of representatives of this minority for this or that position in the trade union movement (always on the basis of a specific practical programme), the British Communist Party must not in any circumstances or under any conditions identify itself with the Minority Movement or merge the organizations. The British Communist Party must maintain full freedom of criticism with respect to the Minority Movement as a whole as well as with respect to its individual leaders, their mistakes and vacillations.

11. The sharpening class struggle in Britain and the approaching danger of war are creating conditions under which the policy of the particular ‘labour’ parties, organizations, groups and ‘leaders’ will quickly be put to the test by the course of events.

The inconsistency of word and deed should manifest itself in the shortest space of time. In. such a period the Communist Party can rapidly enhance its revolutionary authority, its numbers, and especially its influence, provided that it conducts a clear, firm, bold, revolutionary policy, calls everything by its right name, makes no concessions of principle, keeps a sharp eye on its temporary alliance partners and fellow travellers and their vacillations, and mercilessly exposes trickery and above all direct treachery.

Amendments to the ECCI resolution on the situation in Britain, first published in Documents de 1’Opposition de Gauche de l’Internationale Communiste, October 1927

12 In the direction of the Chinese revolution we are confronted not by tactical errors, but by a radically false line. This follows clearly from everything that has been presented above. It becomes still clearer when the policy in China is compared with our policy towards the Anglo-Russian Committee. In the latter case the inconsistency of the opportunistic line did not express itself so tragically as in China, but no less completely and convincingly.

In Britain, as in China, the line was directed towards a rapprochement with the ‘solid’ leaders, based on personal relations, on diplomatic combinations, while renouncing in practice the deepening of the abyss between the revolutionary or leftward-developing masses and the traitorous leaders. We ran after Chiang Kai-shek and thereby drove the Chinese Communists to accept the dictatorial conditions put by Chiang Kai-shek to the Communist Party. In so far as the representatives of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions ran after Purcell, Hicks, Citrine and Co. and adopted in principle the position of neutrality in the trade union movement, they recognised the General Council as the only representative of the British proletariat and obligated themselves not to interfere in the affairs of the British labour movement.

The decisions of the Berlin Conference of the Anglo-Russian Committee mean our renunciation of support in the future to strikers against the will of avowed strike-breakers. They are tantamount to a condemnation and a flat betrayal of the trade union minority, all of whose activity is directed against the traitors whom we have recognised as the sole representatives of the British working class. Finally, the solemn proclamation of ‘non-interference’ signifies our capitulation in principle to the national narrowness of the labour movement in its most backward and most conservative form.

Chiang Kai-shek[2] accuses us of interfering in the internal affairs of China just as Citrine accuses us of interfering in the internal affairs of the trade unions. Both accusations are only transcriptions of the accusation of world imperialism against a workers’ state which dares to interest itself in the fate of the oppressed masses of the whole world. In this case as in others, Chiang Kai-shek, like Citrine, under different conditions and at different posts, remain the agents of imperialism despite temporary conflicts with it. If we chase after collaboration with such ‘leaders’, we are forced ever more to restrict, to limit and to emasculate our methods of revolutionary mobilisation.

Through our false policy we not only helped the General Council to maintain its tottering positions after the strike betrayal, but, what is more, we furnished it with all the necessary weapons for putting impudent demands to us which we meekly accepted. Under the tinkling of phrases about ‘hegemony’, we acted in the Chinese revolution and the British labour movement as if we were morally vanquished, and by that we prepared our material defeat. An opportunist deviation is always accompanied by a loss of faith in one’s own line.

The businessmen of the General Council, having received a guarantee of non-interference from the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, are undoubtedly persuading Chamberlain that their method of struggle against Bolshevik propaganda is far more effective than ultimatums and threats. Chamberlain, however, prefers the combined method and combines the diplomacy of the General Council with the violence of British imperialism.

If it is alleged against the Opposition that Baldwin or Chamberlain ‘also’ wants the dissolution of the Anglo-Russian Committee, then one understands nothing at all of the political mechanics of the bourgeoisie. Baldwin justly feared and still fears the harmful influence of the Soviet trade unions upon the leftward-developing labour movement of Britain. The British bourgeoisie set its pressure upon the General Council against the pressure of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions upon the treacherous leaders of the trade unions, and on this field the bourgeoisie triumphed all along the line. The General Council refused to accept money from the Soviet trade unions and to confer with them on the question of aid for the mineworkers. In exercising its pressure upon the General Council, the British bourgeoisie, through it, exerted pressure upon the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions and at the Berlin Conference obtained from the latter’s representatives an unprecedented capitulation on the fundamental questions of the class struggle. An Anglo-Russian Committee of this kind only serves the British bourgeoisie (c.f. the declaration of The Times). This will not hinder it from continuing its pressure in the future upon the General Council, and demanding of it a break with the AR-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, for by such a policy of pressure and blackmail the British bourgeoisie wins everything we lose by our senseless and unprincipled conduct.

The insinuations that Chiang Kai-shek is ‘in solidarity’ with the Opposition, because he wants to drive the Communists out of the Kuornintang, have the same value. A remark by Chiang Kai-shek is being circulated in which he is supposed to have said to another general that he agrees with the Opposition in the All-Union Communist Party on this point. In the text of the document from which this ‘quotation’ was picked out, the words of Chiang Kai-shek are not adduced as an expression of his views, but as a manifestation of his readiness and aptitude to deceit, to falsehood, and even to disguise himself for a few days as a ‘Left Communist’ in order to be better able to stab us in the back. Still more, the document in question is one long indictment against the line and the work of the Comintern’s representatives in China. Instead of picking quotations out of the document and giving them a sense contrary to that contained in the text, it would be better to make the document itself known to the Comintern. Leave aside, however, the misuse of alleged ‘quotations’ and there remains the ‘coincidence’ that Chiang Kai-shek has always been against a bloc with the Communists, while we are against a bloc with Chiang Kai-shek. The school of Martynov draws from this the conclusion that the policy of the Opposition ‘generally’ serves the reaction. This accusation is not new either. The whole development of Bolshevism in Russia proceeded under the accompaniment of Menshevik accusations that the Bolsheviks were playing the game of the reaction, that they were aiding the monarchy against the Cadets, the Cadets against the SR’s and Mensheviks, and so on without end. Renaudel accuses the French Communists of rendering aid to Poinear6 when they attack the bloc of the radicals and the socialists. The German social-democrats have more than once pretended that our refusal to enter the League of Nations plays the game of the extreme imperialists, etc., etc.

The fact that the big bourgeoisie, represented by Chiang Kai-shek, needs to break with the proletariat, and the revolutionary proletariat on the other hand needs to break with the bourgeoisie, is not an evidence of their solidarity, but of the irreconcilable class antagonism between them. The hopeless compromisers stand between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and accuse both the ‘extreme’ wings of disrupting the national front and rendering assistance to the reaction. To accuse the Opposition of playing the game of Chamberlain, Thomas or Chiang Kai-shek is to show a narrow-minded opportunism, and at the same time to recognize involuntarily the proletarian and revolutionary character of our political line.

The Berlin Conference of the Anglo-Russian Committee which coincided with the beginning of British intervention in China, did not even dare to allude to the question of effective measures to take against the hangman’s work of British imperialism in the Far East. Could a more striking proof be found that the Anglo-Russian Committee is incapable of moving as much as a finger towards really preventing war? But it is not simply useless. It has brought immeasurable harm to the revolutionary movement, like every illusion and hypocrisy. By referring to its collaboration with the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions in the ‘struggle for peace’, the General Council is able to soothe and lull the consciousness of the British proletariat, stirred by the danger of war. The All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions now appears before the British working class and the working class of the whole world as a sort of guarantor for the international policy of the traitors of the General Council. The criticism directed by the revolutionary elements in Britain against the General Council thereby becomes weakened and blunted. Thanks to Purcell, Hicks and Company, the MacDonalds and Thomases get the possibility of keeping the working masses in a stupor up to the threshold of war itself, in order to call upon them then for the defence of the democratic fatherland. When comrade Tomsky, in his last interview (Pravda, May 8), criticized the Thomases., Havelock Wilsons and the other hirelings of the Stock Exchange, he did not mention by a single word the subversive, disintegrating, lulling, and therefore much more pernicious work of Purcell, Hicks and Company. These ‘allies’ are not mentioned by name in the interviews as though they do not even exist. Then why a bloc with them? But they do exist. Without them Thomas does not exist politically. Without Thomas there exists no Baldwin, that is, the capitalist regime in Britain. Contrary to our best intentions, our support of the bloc with Purcell is actually support of the whole British regime and the facilitation of its work in China. After all that has happened, this is clew to every revolutionary who has gone through the school of Lenin. In a like manner, our collaboration with Chiang Kai-shek blunted the class vigilance of the Chinese proletariat, and thereby facilitated the April coup d’Žtat.

From ‘The Chinese revolution and the theses of comrade Stalin’ (dated 7th May, 1927), first published in Documents de l’Opposition do Gauche de 1Internationale Communiste, October 1927


The whole international situation and all the tendencies of its development make the struggle against war and for the defence of the USSR as the first workers’ state the central task of the international proletariat. But it is just the tension of the situation that demands clarity, a precise political line and firm correction of the errors made....

1. War is the continuation of politics by other means. The struggle against war is a continuation of revolutionary policy against the capitalist regime. To grasp this idea means to find the key to all opportunist errors in questions relating to war. Imperialism is no external factor existing by itself; it is the highest expression of the basic tendencies of capitalism. War is the highest method of imperialist policy. The struggle against imperialist war can and must be the highest expression of the international policy of the proletariat.

Opportunist, or radicalism that is turning to opportunism, always inclines to estimate war as such an exceptional phenomenon that it requires the annulment of revolutionary policy and its basic principles. Centrism reconciles itself to revolutionary methods but does not believe in them. That is why it is always inclined, at critical moments, to refer to the peculiarity of the situation, to exceptional circumstances, and so on, in order to substitute opportunist methods for revolutionary ones. Such a shift in the policy of centrism or pseudo-radicalism is of course acutely provoked by the war danger. With all the greater intransigence must this touchstone be applied to the main tendencies of the Communist International.

2. It is already clear to everybody that the: Anglo-Russian Committee must not be regarded as a trade union organization into which the Communists enter to fight for influence over the masses, but as a `peculiar’ political bloc with well-defined aims, directing its activities primarily against the war danger. With tenfold attention to the experience and the example of the Anglo-Russian Committee, the methods of struggle against the war danger must be closely re-examined so as to be able to tell the revolutionary proletariat openly and precisely what must not be done if the Comintern is not be destroyed and the bloody work of imperialism against the international proletariat and the USSR facilitated.

3. In the presidium of the ECCI [Executive Committee of the Comintern] on May 11, Comrade Bukharin advanced a new interpretation of our capitulation to the General Council in Berlin. [3] He declared that the capitulation must not be considered from the standpoint of the international revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, but from the standpoint of a ‘diplomatic’ counteraction to the offensive of imperialism against the USSR.

Various weapons of international action are at our disposal: the party (Comintern), the trade unions, diplomacy, the press, etc. Our activities in the trade union field are dictated to us by the tasks of the class struggle. But only ‘as a general rule.’ In certain cases, as exceptions, we must - according to Bukharin - use the organs of the trade union movement as instruments of diplomatic action. This is what happened with the Anglo-Russian Committee. We capitulated to the General Council not as the General Council, but as the agent of the British government. We obligated ourselves not to interfere not out of party reasons, but for reasons of state. That is the substance of the new interpretation of the Berlin capitulation which, as we will soon show, only makes it still more dangerous.

4. The Berlin agreement of the Trade Union Central Council of the Soviet Union with the General Council was discussed a short time ago at the April plenum of the Central Committee of our party. The decisions of the Berlin Conference were defended by Comrades Tomsky, Andreev[4] and Nieinichansky, [5] that is, our outstanding trade unionists, but not our diplomats. All these comrades, in defending the Berlin capitulation, accused the Opposition of not understanding the role and methods of the trade union movement, and declared that the masses of trade unionists cannot be influenced by breaking with the apparatus, that the apparatus cannot be influenced by breaking with its upper sections, and that these were just the considerations that dictated the attitude of our trade unionists in Berlin.

Now Comrade Bukharin explains that the decisions of the Berlin Conference constitute, on the contrary, an exceptional case, an exception from the principled Bolshevik method of influencing the trade unions, an exception in the name of temporary, but acute, diplomatic tasks. Why did not Comrade Bukharin, and Comrade Tomsky with him, explain this to us at the last plenary session of our Central Committee? ...

5. Where did such an appalling contradiction come from in the course of a few weeks? It grew out of the impossibility of standing, if even for a single month, on the April position. When our delegation left for Berlin, it did not have Bukharin’s subsequent explanation of the position it was to take. Did Comrade Bukharin himself have this explanation at that time? At all events, it was nowhere expressed by anybody. .. It is quite clear that this explanation was thought up after the event.

6. It becomes still clearer when we go back further, that is, to the origin of the question. After the criminal calling off of the General Strike by the General Council, the ‘left’ wing with the right for the palm, the Opposition in the All-Union Communist Party demanded an immediate break with the General Council so as to make easier and accelerate the liberation of the proletarian vanguard from the influence of the traitors. The majority of the Central Committee opposed to this their viewpoint that the retention of the Anglo-Russian Committee was allegedly required in the interests of our revolutionary influence on the British proletariat, despite the counter-revolutionary policy of the General Council during the strike.

It was precisely at this moment that Comrade Stalin advanced his theory of stages that cannot be skipped over. By the word ‘stage’, in this case, must not be understood the political level of the masses, which varies with different strata, but of the conservative leaders who reflect the pressure of the bourgeoisie on the proletariat and conduct an irreconcilable struggle against the advanced sections of the proletariat.

In contradiction to this, the Opposition contended that the maintenance of the Anglo-Russian Committee after its open and obvious betrayal, which closed the preceding period of ‘left development,’ would have as its inevitable conclusion an impermissible weakening of our criticism of the leaders of the General Council, at least of its ‘left’ wing. We were answered, primarily by this same Bukharin, that this is a revolting slander; that the organizational alliance does not hinder our revolutionary criticism in the slightest degree; that we would not permit any kind of principled concessions; that the Anglo-Russian Committee would only be an organizational bridge to the masses for us. It occurred to nobody at that time to justify the maintenance of the Anglo-Russian Committee by referring to grounds of a diplomatic character which necessitate a temporary abandonment of the revolutionary line ...

7. The Opposition foretold in its writings that the maintenance of the Anglo-Russian Committee would steadily strengthen the political position of the General Council, and that it would inevitably be converted from defendant to prosecutor. This prediction was explained as the fruit of our ‘ultra-leftism.’ Incidentally, an especially ridiculous theory was created, namely, that the demand for the dissolution of the Anglo-Russian Committee was equivalent to the demand for the workers to leave the trade unions. By that alone, the policy of maintaining the Anglo-Russian Committee was invested with the character of an exceptiotially important question of principle.

8. Neverthelsss, it was very quickly proved that the choice must be made between maintaining organizational connections with the General Council or calling the traitors by their name. The majority of the Politburo inclined more and more to maintain the organizational connections at any cost. To achieve this aim, no ‘skipping over stages’ was required, it is true; but it did require sinking politically one degree after another. This can most distinctly be followed in the three conferences of the Anglo-Russian Committee: in Paris (July 1926), in Berlin (August 1926), and most recently in Berlin (April 1927). Each time our criticism of the General Council became more cautious, and completely avoided touching on the `left’, that is, on the most dangerous betrayers of the working class.

9. The General Council felt all along, by its consistent pressure, that it held the representatives of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions in its hand. From the defendant it became the prosecutor. It understood that if the Bolsheviks did not break on the question of the General Strike, which had such a tremendous international importance, they would not break later on, no matter what demands were placed before them. We see how the General Council, under the pressure of the British bourgeoisie, conducted its offensive against the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions with ever greater energy. The Central Council retreated and yielded. These retreats were explained on the grounds of revolutionary strategy in the trade union movement, but by no means for diplomatic motives....

The line of the Politburo ended naturally and inevitably with the Berlin conference of the Anglo-Russian Committee at the beginning of April. The capitulation of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions on the basic questions of the international working class movement was neither an unexpected side-leap nor an abrupt manoeuvre. No, it was the inevitable crowning, predicted by us long before, of the whole line followed in this question.

10. At the beginning of June of last year (1926), Comrade Bulcharin, as we said, was the creator of a theory according to which the necessity of working in reactionary trade unions allegedly brought with it the maintenance of the Anglo-Russian Committee under all circumstances. In the face of all the evidence, Bukharin at that time flatly denied that the Anglo-Russian Committee was a political bloc and called it a ‘trade union organization’.

Now Bukharin creates a new theory, according to which our remaining in the Anglo-Russian Committee, bought at the price of an absolutely unprincipled capitulation, was not called forth by. the needs of a ‘trade union organization,’ but by the necessity of maintaining apolitical bloc with the General Council in the name of diplomatic aims.

Bukharin’s theory of today is in direct contradiction to his theory of yesterday. They have only this in common, that they are both 100 per cent deceitful, that they were both dragged in by the hair in order to justify after the fact, at two different stages, the sliding down from a Bolshevik to a compromising line.

11. That the right will betray us in the event of war, is recognized as indisputable even by Bukharin. So far as the ‘left’ is concerned., it will ‘probably’ betray us. But if it betrays us, it will do it, according to Bukharin, ‘in its own way,’ by not supporting us but by playing the role of ballast for the British government. Pitiful as these considerations may be, they must nevertheless be demolished.

Let us assume for a moment that all of this is really so. But if the ‘left’ betrays us ‘in its own way,’ that is, less actively, in a more veiled manner than the right, it will surely not be because of the lovely eyes of the delegation of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, but because of the British workers. That is the general line of policy of the ‘left’ in all questions, internal as well as external: to betray, but ‘in its own way.’ This policy is profitable for it. Then why are we obliged to pay the ‘left’ with the abandonment of our policy, for a policy which they are forced in any case to carry out in their own interests?

12. But in what sense will the ‘left’ be a ballast for the British government? Obviously, in the same sense that they were ‘ballast’ during the imperialist war, or are now, during the war of Britain against revolutionary China, and during the campaign of the Conservatives against the trade unions. The ‘left’ criticizes the government within such limits as do not interfere with its role as exploiter and robber. The ‘left’ gives expression to the dissatisfaction of the masses within these limits, so as to restrain them from revolutionary action.

In case the dissatisfaction of the masses breaks through to the outside, the ‘left’ seeks to dominate the movement in order to strangle it. Were the ‘.left’ not to criticize it, not to expose, not to attack the bourgeoisie, it would be unable to serve it ‘in its own way.’

If it is admitted that the ‘left’ is a ballast, then it is admitted that it is the useful, appropriate, necessary, succouring ballast without which the ship of British imperialism would long ago have gone down.

To be sure, the (Tory] diehards are fulminating against the ‘left.’ But this is done to keep the fear of God in it, so that it will not overstep the bounds prescribed for it, so that no unnecessary expense be incurred for their ‘ballast’. The diehards are just as necessary an ingredient in the imperialist mechanism as the ‘left’.

13. But under the pressure of the masses cannot even the ‘left’ overstep the bounds prescribed for it by the bourgeois regime? This unexpected argument is also launched.

That the revolutionary pressure of the masses can undo the game of Chamberlain-Thomas-Purcell is incontestable. But the dispute does not hinge on whether the international revolutionary movement of the proletariat is advantageous for a workers’ state, but rather whether we are helping or obstructing it by our policy.

The pressure of the masses, all other conditions being equal, will be all the stronger the more the masses are alarmed by the perspective of war, the less they rely upon the General Council, and the less confidence they have in the ‘left’ traitors (traitors ‘in their own way). If we sign ‘unanimously’ a pitiful, lying, hypocritical declaration on the war together with the General Council, we thereby pacify the masses, appease their restlessness, lull them to sleep, and consequently reduce their pressure on the ‘left’.

14. The Berlin conference can be justified by the ‘international interests of the USSR’! Here the mistake of Bukharin becomes especially atrocious. Precisely the interests of the USSR will suffer chiefly and most directly as a result of the false policy of the political bureau towards the General Council. Nothing can cause us such harm as mistakes and hypocrisy in the revolutionary camp of the proletariat. We will not deceive our enemies, the experienced and shrewd imperialists. Hypocrisy will help the vacillating pacifists to vacillate in the future. And our real friends, the revolutionary workers, can only be deceived and weakened by the policy of illusions and hypocrisy.

15. Bukharin will reply to this: ‘The Berlin decisions would be inadmissible if we worked only in the trade union movement. However, everything we have done in Berlin can be extended and improved with the means that the party has. Just look: we even criticize the General Council in Pravda, in speeches by British Communists, etc.’

This argument amounts to poisoning of the revolutionary consciousness. Bukharin’s words mean only that we support the General Council ‘in our fashion’ while it in turn ‘in its fashion’ supports the imperialist state. If we criticize the General Council, then under the present circumstances, that is only to cover our political support of it and our political alliance with it.

The articles in Pravda (which are extremely foolish in regard to Purcell and Co.) are not read by the British workers. But the decisions of the Berlin conference are distributed through the press over the whole world. For the moment only a small minority of the British proletariat knows anything of the articles by the British Communists. But all the British workers know one thing: that Purcell and Tomsky maintain ‘friendly relations’ with each other, ‘understand each other’, and ‘are in agreement with each other.’ The attitude of the Russian trade union delegation, which represents the victorious proletariat of the Soviet Republic, is much more decisive than the speeches of the British Communists and thus belies their criticism, which - by the way - is inadequate, since their freedom is limited by the Anglo-Russian Committee.

In short: the capitulation of the Russian trade union movement in the name of the alliance with Purcell is one of the most important facts in the international workers’ movement at the present moment. The `critical’ articles in Pravda and Bukharin’s ever-new theories are only the sauce on it.

That is just why Lenin wrote in his instructions for our delegation to the pacifist congress at the Hague, [6] where we had to deal with the same trade unionists, co-operators, and so forth:

I think that if we have several people at the Hague Conference who are capable of delivering speeches against war in various languages, the most important thing would be to refute the opinion that the delegates at the Conference are opponents of war, that they understand how war may and will come upon them at the most unexpected moment, that they to any extent understand what methods should he adopted to combat war, that they are to any extent in a position to adopt reasonable and effective measures to combat war. [Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.33 p.479]

What interests did Lenin have in mind in writing these words: the international interests of the USSR or the revolutionary interests of the international proletariat? In such a basic question Lenin did not and could not set the one against the other. Lenin was of the opinion that the slightest yielding to the pacifist illusions of the trade unionists would render more difficult the real struggle against the war danger and injure the international proletariat as much as the USSR.

Lenin had conscientious pacifists in mind here, and not branded strike-breakers who are condemned by the their whole position after May 1926 to a further chain of betrayals....

16. In what manner can the thoroughly rotten, pseudo-pacifist agreement with traitors, whom we have already declared by common accord to be the ‘only representatives’ of the British proletariat, strengthen our international position? How? The Berlin conference took place in the period of the opening of hostilities by the British government against China and the preparation of similar hostilities against us. The interests of our international position demanded above all that these facts be openly called by their proper name. Instead, we passed them over in silence.

Chamberlain knows these facts and is obliged to conceal them. The British masses do not correctly know these facts and are obliged to learn them from us. Honest pacifists among the workers can go over to a revolutionary line in the face of these facts. The base merchants of pacifism in the General Council cannot speak aloud about facts which would, at best and without doubt, expose their silent conspiracy with Chamberlain against the British workers, against China, against the USSR, and against the world proletariat.

Now what did we do in Berlin? With all the authority of a workers’ state, we helped the ‘pacifist’ lackeys of imperialism to preserve their thieves’ secret. We proclaimed before the whole world that we are ‘in unanimous accord’ with the agents of Chamberlain in the General Council in the cause of the struggle against war. We thereby weakened the resistance power of the British workers against the war. We thereby increased Chamberlain’s freedom of action. We thereby injured the international position of the USSR.

It must be said more concretely: the Berlin capitulation of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions to the General Council extraordinarily facilitated Chamberlain’s attack on the Soviet institutions in London, with all the possible consequences of this act.

17. It must not be forgotten that thanks especially to the insular position of Britain and the absence of a direct threat to its borders, the British reformists, during the war, allowed themselves a somewhat greater ‘freedom’ of words than their brothers-in-treason on the Continent. But in general they played the same role. Now, with the experiences of the imperialist war, the reformists, especially of the ‘left,’ will endeavour in the event of a new war to throw even more sand in the eyes of the workers than in the years 1914-18.

It is entirely probable that as a result of the attack on the Soviet institutions in London, which was prepared by the whole policy of the ‘left’, they will protest in a little louder tone than the Liberals. But if the Anglo-Russian Committee were in any way capable of helping, not Chamberlain, but us, then would not both sides have come to an agreement in the first twenty-four hours, sounded the alarm, and spoken to the masses in a language corresponding to the seriousness of the circumstances? But nothing of the sort occurred, and nothing will. The Anglo-Russian Committee did not exist during the General Strike when the General Council refused to accept the ‘damned gold’ of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions: the Anglo-Russian Committee did not exist during the miners’ strike; the Anglo-Russian Committee did not exist during the bombardment of Nanking; and the Anglo-Russian Committee will not exist in the event of the breaking of diplomatic relations between England and the USSR. These harsh truths must be told the workers. They must be honestly warned. That will strengthen the USSR!

18. It may be replied: But concessions on our part to the bourgeoisie are permissible, and if the present General Council is considered an agent of the bourgeoisie within the working-class movement, why should we not make concessions to the General Council out of the same considerations that we make concessions to imperialism? Certain comrades are beginning to play with this formula which is a classic example of the falsification and overthrow of Leninism for opportunist political` aims.

If we are forced to make concessions to our class enemy, we make them to the master himself, but not to his Menshevik clerk. We never mask and never embellish our concessions. When we resigned ourselves to Curzon’s ultimatum, we explained to the British workers that at the present moment we, together with them, are not yet strong enough to take up the challenge of Curzon immediately. We bought ourselves off from the ultimatum to avert a diplomatic break, but we laid bare the real relations of classes by a clear presentation of the question; by that, we weakened the reformists and strengthened our international position as well as the position of the international proletariat.

In Berlin, however, we got absolutely nothing from Chamberlain. The concessions we made to the interests of British capitalism (new crowning of the General Council, principle of ‘non-interference,’ and so forth), were not exchanged for any concession at all on their part (no breaking-off of relations, no war). And at the same time we camouflaged everything by depicting our concessions to capitalism as a triumph of the unity of the working class. Chamberlain received a great deal gratis. The traitors of the General Council received a great deal. We received - a compromise. The international proletariat received - confusion and disorder. British imperialism came out of the Berlin conference stronger. We came out weaker.

19. But, it is said, to break with the General Council at such a critical moment would mean that we could not so much as live in peace with the organized workers of Britain; it would give the imperialists a trump card, and so on and so forth.

This argument is false to its very roots. Of course it would have been incomparably more advantageous had we broken with the General Council immediately after its betrayal of the General Strike, as the Opposition demanded. The year would then not have been frittered away with doleful gallantries towards the traitors, but would have been used for their merciless exposure. The past year was not lacking in occasions for this.

Such a policy would have forced the ‘left’ capitulators of the General Council to fight for remnants of their reputation. to separate themselves from the right, to half-expose Chamberlain, in a word, to show the workers that they, the ‘left,’ are not half as bad as the Moscow people present them. This would have deepened the split in the General Council. And when the swindlers of reformism come to blows, many secrets come to light, and the workers can only gain by it. Such a struggle against the General Council would have been the sharpest form of struggle against the policy of Chamberlain in the labour movement. In this struggle, the revolutionary working class cadres in Britain would have learned in a year more skilfully to catch the sharpers of the General Council at their swindles and to expose the policy of Chamberlain. British imperialism would have had to face much greater difficulties today. In other words: Had the policy proposed by the Opposition been adopted in June of last year, the international position of the USSR would now be stronger.

Even if belatedly, the break should have been made at least during the miners’ strike, which would have been quite clear to the million miners, as well as the millions of workers betrayed in the General Strike. But our proposals in this respect were rejected as incompatible with the interests of the international trade union movement. The consequences are well known. They were registered in Berlin. Today it is declared that the radically false line that already caused so much harm must be maintained in the future as well because of the difficulties of the international situation, which means in essence that the international position of the USSR is being sacrificed in order to conceal the errors of the leadership. All the new theories of Bukharin have no other meaning.

20. A correction of the errors now, even after a years delay, would only be of benefit and not detriment. Chamberlain will say, of course, that the Bolsheviks are not able to maintain peace with his trade unionists. But every honest and even partly conscious British worker will say: the far too patient Bolsheviks, who did not even break with the General Council during our strikes, could no longer maintain any friendship with it when it refused to struggle against the suppression of the Chinese revolution and the new war that is being hatched by Chamberlain. The putrid decorations of the Berlin Anglo-Russian Committee will be cast aside. The workers will see the real facts, the real relationships. Who will lose thereby? Imperialism, which needs putrid decorations! The USSR and the international proletariat will gain.

21. But let us return again to the latest theory of Bukharin. In contradiction to Tomsky, Bukharin says, as we know, that the Berlin decisions are not the policy of the united front, but an exception to it, evoked by exceptional circumstances.

What are these circumstances? The war danger, that is, the most important question of imperialist policy and the policy of the world proletariat. This fact alone must forthwith compel the attention of every revolutionist. It would appear from this that revolutionary policy serves for more or less ‘normal’ conditions; but when we stand before a question of life or death, the revolutionary policy must be substituted by a policy of compromise.

When Kautsky justified the iniquity of the Second International in 1914, he thought up the ex post-facto theory that the International was an instrument of peace but not of war. In other words, Kautsky proclaimed that the struggle against the bourgeois state is normal, but that an exception must be made under the ‘exceptional conditions’ of war. and a bloc made with the bourgeois government, while we continue to ‘criticise’ it in the press.

For the international proletariat, it is now a question not only of the struggle against the bourgeois state, but of the direct defence of a workers’ state. But it is precisely the interests of this defence that demand of the international proletariat not a weakening but a sharpening of the struggle against the bourgeois state. The war danger can only be averted or postponed for the proletariat by the real danger to the bourgeoisie that the imperialist war can be transformed into a civil war. In other words, the war danger does not demand a passing over from the revolutionary policy to a policy of compromise, but on the contrary, a firmer, more energetic, more irreconcilable execution of the revolutionary policy. War poses all questions forcefully. It admits of evasions and half-measures infinitely less than does a state of peace. If the bloc with the Purcells who betrayed the General Strike was a hindrance in peaceful times, in times of war danger it is a millstone around the neck of the working class.

If one admits that the turning back from Bolshevism to opportunism is justified by circumstances on which the life and death of the workers’ state depend, then one capitulates in principle to opportunism: for what value has a revolutionary policy that must be abandoned under the most critical circumstances?

22. In general, can the trade unions be utilized at one time in the interests of international class policy, and at another time for any sort of alleged diplomatic aims? Can such a situation be established where the same representatives of the AUCP(B), the Comintern, and the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions say at one moment that the General Council is a traitor and strike-breaker, and at another time that it is a friend with whom we are in hearty accord? Is it sufficient to whisper secretly that the former must be understood in the revolutionary class sense and the latter in a diplomatic sense? Can such a policy be spoken of seriously? Can one speak seriously to people who propose and defend such a policy?

After the Berlin conference, the word ‘traitor,’ as used for a Menshevik agent of the bourgeoisie, became terribly cheap. But such expressions as ‘hearty accord "mutual understanding,’ and ‘unanimity’ (the words of Comrade Tomsky), became equally cheap. Who benefits by this unusually artful combination of methods? It does not deceive our enemy for a moment. It only confuses our friends and reduces the weight of our own words and deeds.

23. Bukharin’s new theory is not an isolated one. On the one hand, we are told that the unprincipled agreement with the notoriously treasonable General Council allegedly facilitated the defence of the USSR. On the other hand, we hear ever more loudly that the building of workers’ and peasants’ soviets in China would be a threat to the defence of the USSR. Doesn’t this mean turning the foundations of Bolshevik policy upside down? Workers’ and peasants’ soviets in China would signify a magnificent extension of the soviet front and the strengthening of our world position. The agreement with the General Council signifies on the contrary a weakening of the internal contradictions in Britain and the greatest facility to Chamberlain in his work of brigandage against China and against us.

Once it is avowed that soviets in China are harmful to our international position, but that the General Council is useful, then the recognition of the principle of ‘non-interference’ is essentially correct; but then supplementary conclusions must be drawn, at least with regard to Amsterdam. One can be sure that these conclusions will be drawn today or tomorrow, if not by Bukharin himself then by someone else. The new principle of opportunist exceptions ‘in particularly important cases’ can find a broad application. The orientation on the opportunist chiefs of the labour movement will be motivated everywhere by the necessity of avoiding intervention. The possibility of building socialism in one country will serve to justify the principle of ‘non-interference.’ That is how the various ends will be knotted together into a noose that will strangle to death the revolutionary principles of Bolshevism. And end must be made to this once and for all!

We must make up for lost time. A broad and politically clear international campaign against war and imperialism is necessary. Our bloc with the General Council is now the principal obstacle in the road of this campaign, just as our bloc with Chiang Kai-shek104 was the chief obstacle in the road of the development of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution in China and, because of that, was used by the bourgeois counter-revolution against us, The more acute the international situation becomes, the more the Anglo-Russian Committee will be transformed into an instrument of British and international imperialism against us. After all that has happened, only he can fail to understand who does not want to understand. We have already wasted far too much time. It would be a crime to lose even another day.

Dated 16th May, 1927, and first published in Documents de I’Opposition de Gauche de l’1nternationale Communiste, October 1927


1 This body of trade unionists was organized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1924 from the militant rank and file in many industries. It built up support and its conferences secured increasing representation up to the 1926 General Strike. However, it never really broke from its syndicalist antecedents and came under the control of Stalinist policies, collapsing in the suicidal dual unionist policies of the Comintern in the late 1920s.

2 Born in 1887, the generalissimo of the Chinese nationalist army that finally, with Communist support, overthrew the warlords in 1925 and then turned against the Communists and the working class, massacring the workers of Shanghai, Canton and other cities. Defeated in the civil war by Mao Tse-tung and retreated to Formosa in 1949, where he has since ruled over a statelet of his own under the patronage of US imperialism.

3 Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin (1888-1938), Russian Bolshevik who succeeded Zinoviev as president of the Communist International. In this capacity he acted as defender of the Comintern’s disastrous policies from 1925 to 1929, when he formed the Right Opposition in the Soviet Communist Party and was expelled. He was executed after the Third Moscow Trial.

4 Andrei Andreevich Andreev (1895-1970) joined the Russian Bolsheviks in 1A4 and after the October Revolution occupied leading positions in the Soviet trade unions. Elected to the Central Committee in 1922 and became a member of the Organization Bureau. One of Stalin’s most loyal supporters, he was elected to the Politburo in 1934 but was demoted to minor posts following criticism of his views on agriculture in 1950.

5 Grigorii Natanovich Melnichansky (1886-1937), member of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party from 1902. Secretary and then Chairman of the Moscow City Trade Union Council after the Revolution, and in 1926 a member of the Praesidium. One of the many faithful Stalinists who perished in the purges.

6 The Hague International Peace Conference was convened by the Amsterdam International of trade unions and met from 10th December to 15th December 1922. The reformist majority rejected the proposal of the Soviet delegation on the question of war.

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